The Federal Communications Commission has decided to look in have people text the forthcoming National Suicide Prevention Lifeline shortened number in an effort to increase accessibility and use of the service by those who need it most (through Politics reporter John Hendel). Last May, the FCC approved the creation of a new short code, 988, which will act as an easier-to-remember lifeline phone number.
If you call 988, you won’t be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline until July 16, 2022.
It’s worth noting that the approval is today just a first step and doesn’t mean people can definitely text the 988 number when it goes live in July 2022. It does mean, however, that the FCC will consider making it a requirement for telephone providers, and it will accept public comments on whether text messages should be allowed. According to his statementThe FCC also wants to publicly comment on the implementation details before it starts drafting actual rules like what kinds of things people should be able to text the lifeline, what happens if a message bounces back, etc.
For a comment, please visit the FCC’s express commentary page. The procedure is 18-336.
While it’s no doubt a good thing to contact lifeline by phone or text with an easy-to-remember number, it’s also worth noting that the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline also has a chat feature on its website. The current hotline has added the ability to accept text messages at 1-800-273-8255 in August 2020, but 988 is an easier number to remember, especially in times of crisis.
The proposal to add SMS support to 988 wasn’t the only action the FCC took today to improve public safety. It also announced it would investigate to increase the reliability of the 911 emergency services network.